Avenged Sevenfold surprised everybody two weeks ago, when out of nowhere, they released their highly anticipated new album, The Stage, as a surprise release after a midnight performance in Los Angeles. The band previously got their friend, Chris Jericho, to post a fake release date December 9th, along with a fake album title, to throw people off. But did this marketing effort hurt or help sales?
It looks like it hurt sales. Today, Billboard reports that Aveneged Sevenfold's The Stage is the #4 album in the country on the Top 200, with 76,000 units. That's 72,000 albums sold with 4,000 album-equivalent streams (equating 10 digital track sales from an album to one equivalent album sale, and 1,500 song streams from an album to one equivalent album sale.). That is less than half the sales their 2013 release, Hail To The King, did at 159,000 sold. In fact, taking a look at their first-week breakdown, the last time they did lower than 72k first week was in 2005 – eleven years ago:
The Stage – 72,000 (2016)
Hail to the King – 159,000 (2013)
Nightmare – 163,000 (2010)
Avenged Sevenfold – 90,000 (2007)
City of Evil – 30,000 (2005)
There is no good way to spin these numbers. The album tanked compared to their previous release. Sure, you can try to blame erroding sales on streaming, but as reported above, the band only got 4,000 unit-equivalent streams, so it doesn't seem like too many fans went out of their way to stream the album.
So what went wrong? A number of things can be blamed, but it's clear that the "surprise release" idea that worked very well for the likes of major pop stars like Beyonce, etc. did not work at nearly the same level for these guys. Yes, in the rock and metal world, Aveneged Sevenfold are massive. But in the larger entertainment space, they are not big enough to warrant the amount of publicity Beyonce got the first week of her album. Clearly, rock and metal fans still buy albums and perhaps were unable to find The Stage at local retail shops, or worse… the message didn't get to them that the album was out.
Also, the band themselves no favors by creating confusion in the marketplace with the fake release date and album title. The band admitted they asked Jericho to post a fake news bit to throw people off. A lot of rock and metal websites, including this one, picked up on it. And word got out quickly. But, I'm guessing word did not get out as quick that the album was actually released.
Additionally, other than some social media ads on Facebook and Instagram, I have seen very little advertising for this new album. Perhaps their label is about to change that and ramp up for the holiday season? They better hurry up because they are going to have competition from the band's former label, Warner, who are putting out an Avenged compilation of their own, while in the process of taking the band to court over their contract dispute. Part of the dispute is Avenged Sevenfold claiming they wanted out of their contract because Warner wouldn't know what to do with the band. It seems like this low turnout would be in Warner's favor. (Although who wouldn't kill to sell 72k copies first week?)
While it was brave and daring of Avenged Sevenfold to try to do a surprise release, this is proof that such promo tactics that could get across big in the pop world, don't exactly translate into the metal world. I expect a big push for the second single, and in a few years when the band releases their next album, I don't expect to be as much of a surprise.
Did you like The Stage? Our reviewer certainly did, giving it a 10/10.
[h/t to Ryan Downey for sharing the Billboard numbers]